Retiree Health Insurance Benefits Protected

Employees who had taken a leave of absence and not maintained health insurance through the employer were denied early retirement health insurance benefits after retirement.  The union pursued a group grievance under the early retirement benefits section of collective bargaining agreement, arguing that the employees were entitled to benefits based on years of service and the employer was improperly imposing additional eligibility requirements.  Aruna represented the union at the arbitration hearing and succeeded in obtaining retiree health insurance benefits.

Arbitrator Requires City to Reinstate Fire and Police Pension Reversion Benefits

The City of Portland Fire and Police Retirement Fund had a rule which provided that when an alternate payee (such as an ex-spouse) died before the retiree, the alternate payee’s payments would revert to the retiree. The Board of the pension fund eliminated the reversion benefit, and the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association filed a grievance over the change, asserting that it violated the maintenance-of-benefits clause in the union contract. The City refused to arbitrate. Hank Kaplan filed an unfair labor practice charge to compel the City to arbitrate and then represented the union in the subsequent arbitration. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the union, and ordered the City to reinstate the benefit. The arbitrator held that pension benefits are a mandatory subject of bargaining and that the contract obligated the City to maintain the pension benefits in the contract, regardless of whether the pension fund paid for those benefits.

Teacher Dismissal Overturned

A teacher had attempted to commit suicide off-duty by driving her vehicle into the back of her estranged husband’s unoccupied truck. Despite the fact that the teacher received only minor injuries and was soon released to return to work, the District terminated her employment. Tom Doyle represented her before an administrative panel. That panel ordered reinstatement. According to the unanimous panel, terminating the teacher was “clearly excessive and unreasonable.”

School District Ordered to Compensate Teachers for Increased Student Contact Time

This is a case dating back to 2007 in which the Association challenged the District’s unilateral decision to increase student contact time by approximately 30 minutes per day, when it adopted a new trimester schedule. The Association argued that the District was required to bargain over the decision; the District claimed that the increase in student contact time was merely an “impact” of its educational decision to change to the trimester schedule. The Association lost before the Employment Relations Board (ERB), but the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the matter back to the Board for reconsideration. On remand, ERB found that the District had failed to bargain over the significant increase in student contact time. As a remedy, ERB required the District to pay teachers $1000 per year for each year they worked under the excess load. For many teachers, this would add up to over $5000 for the extra time they worked.   In addition, the District had to modify its schedule to reduce student contact time.

Proposed Termination of Special Education Teacher Reversed

The District sought to terminate a long-time and successful special education teacher for paperwork errors. The Association argued that termination was too severe a penalty for problems that were the natural consequence of severe underfunding. After Attorney Margaret Olney provided the District with information from other educators about the District’s inconsistent policies and the prevalence of similar problems throughout the District, the District agreed to reduce the discipline to a short suspension.

Disciplinary Action Reversed

An employee suffering from Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) covered conditions was disciplined for alleged excessive absenteeism. Aruna Masih, representing the employee through her union, took grievances on behalf of the employee to arbitration under the union’s contract with the employer and won reversal of the disciplinary action.

Disciplinary Suspension Ruled Excessive

A corrections deputy was arrested for driving under the influence of intoxicants near his home. The arrest was without incident, and resulted in a diversion agreement instead of a conviction. The employer imposed a long suspension as the “minimum” discipline available under its guidelines, and the deputy’s union grieved the discipline. Hank Kaplan, representing the union, established that the employer’s past practice was to impose a single-day minimum for similar offenses, and the arbitrator agreed. The discipline was changed to one day, and the deputy was made whole for the difference.

Unlawful Paycheck Deductions Reimbursed

After an employee was terminated from his employer, the employer made deductions from the employees final paycheck. These deductions were for allegedly incorrect expense account reimbursements. Tom Doyle successfully obtained reimbursement to the employee for all unlawful deductions and penalty wages.

Nurses’ Union Victory at OHSU

Tom Doyle and Hank Kaplan represented the nurses union in an unfair labor practice complaint against Oregon Health Sciences University. During a strike by the nurses union, OHSU paid nurses an incentive to cross the picket line. As a result of this ULP, OHSU was required to pay the same incentive to nurses who did not cross the picket line.

Court Rules That Employer May Not Thwart Strike

In the first known ruling of its kind in Oregon, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Wittmayer rejected an attempt to prevent a public employee strike at the Port of Portland. The Port filed for an emergency injunction on the morning of Wednesday, November 21, 2012 to prevent a strike by Port marine terminal security guards represented by ILWU Local 28, scheduled for Sunday, November 26. The Port invoked the court’s jurisdiction under ORS 243.726 – a statute never utilized before – that allows appropriate injunctive relief where a strike creates a direct threat to public safety, health or welfare.

At the emergency hearing that afternoon, the Port presented evidence of financial harm that would be caused by a strike at the marine terminals and also presented safety concerns relating to the berthing of vessels in the Columbia River.

Judge Wittmayer rejected the Port’s argument on all points. The Judge ruled that ORS 662 (known as the little Norris-Laguardia Act) prevented injunctions prohibiting strikes, including public employee strikes, except where unlawful activity is occurring. In addition the court ruled that there was no threat to public welfare or safety. Finally, the court ruled that whatever harm would occur was in the nature of financial inconvenience – a basis explicitly excluded from being a reason to order injunctive relief.

Subsequent to the court’s ruling, the parties settled the contract.

Hank Kaplan, Tom Doyle and Aruna Masih represented ILWU Local 28 in this matter, and in the negotiations.